Refined/Redefined

All-day experiences at the new Park Hyatt Lounge

Certain things have the power to simply whisk you away as if by magic. The smell of Sunday morning pancakes, the chill of crisp autumn nights by the fireplace, an old photo that you had completely forgotten about. Close your eyes and you’re instantly transported to a another time and place.

Fresh off a soft upgrade, the Park Lounge (Park Hyatt, Ground Floor) is one of those magical things. Already one of Saigon’s most refined spaces, the lounge recently received a facelift in both menu offerings and design. While the signature double-height windows sheathed with plantation shutters, the grand chandeliers, and the majestic cream-colored pillars edged in gold trim remain the same, the rest of the space now feels even more sumptuous.

Regular visitors will likely notice the bar is now gone, replaced with a simple backlit serving counter for coffees and spirits which serves to open up the space. In its stead is a fabulous crystal table, dozens of prisms reflecting the light, to go along with new crystal wall sconces that accentuate the seriously sexy curve of the feature windows.

To temper the opulence, the Park Lounge cleverly includes several design features that lend a easy coziness to the space. Underfoot, the new plush area rug features soothing tones of turquoise and aquamarine, and all the seating is also new, an elegantly eclectic collection of plush sofas, armchairs, and high chairs set in intimate groupings, and covered in exquisite damasks, chintzes, and velvets.

While all the fittings and furnishings are sourced from France, the Park Lounge retains its East Meets West aesthetic with the addition of antique lacquer furniture, dramatic Asian artwork in pops of red, and a spectacular larger-than-life gold and silver embroidered wall display by noted fashion designer Mai Lam. Taken together, all of these elements combine to transport guests to a different time and place, Old Saigon at the heady height of 1920s Indochina, the perfect place to while away the day.

We arrive just before noon, as businessmen are wrapping up informal meetings, their silver laptops reflected in the mirrored tables. Park Lounge’s revamped menu now has Well Being Selections to accompany old favorites. We opt for the Superfood Salad (VND240,000), a healthy yet tasty combination of organic red quinoa, avocado, frijoles, and feta that’s lightly filling, and the Yellowtail Kingfish (VND310,000), wonderfully marinated in a perilla vinaigrette with pomegranate seeds to provide bursts of brightness.

The Park Lounge has always been known for its decadent afternoon tea (VND990,000 for two) where beautiful people come to nibble on beautiful food, and it’s still as good as ever. Sweet and savory bites are veritable works of art, a true feast for the eyes. Each small bite reveals careful forethought in flavor combinations and presentation, garnished with tiny edible flowers and served on Hanoia lacquerware and graceful Ercuis silver stands. The Iberico pork belly reuben had layers of flavor while the Phu Quoc pepper crusted salmon on a crunchy sesame cracker was an inspired pairing. Scones with house-made jam and Tahitian vanilla cream arrived warm and soft, while the signature blueberry crepe cake had a wonderfully spongy texture created by alternating layers of delicate crepes and tartly sweet filling. For serious tea connoisseurs, the Park Lounge has unveiled the Tea Trolley serving gourmet Mariage Frères blends like the White Tea Himalaya (VND380,000) with notes of wild orchids and mandarin orange, and the Namring Queen Upper, a Darjeeling tea picked at altitude with hints of floral and citrus notes.

As day turns to night, the chandeliers dim and the lounge takes on a sultry softness, backed by an enchanting singer accompanied on the piano (daily starting at 7:15pm, except for Sundays). The jazzy arrangements set the scene for the Lounge’s sophisticated tea-infused evening cocktails which we pair with a set of canapés (12 for VND900,000). The Longan Tea (VND280,000) may be more of an acquired taste with hints of Darjeeling, dried longan and mellow Havana Club 7 Year Rum but it went well with the Quail cromesqui, a flavorful croquette of breaded fish salpicon. The winners of the evening were the Provence Negroni (VND260,000), a fragrant blend of homemade bergamot liquor and orange bitters backed by gin and vermouth, vibrant in both color and flavor, the perfect companion to the earthy Foie gras tucked under a gelatin beetroot dome.

As the final strains of music fade and the last cocktail sipped, we reluctantly return to modern-day Saigon, but what an escape it was.

Images by James Pham

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